24: THEOLOGY FOR THE MASSES -time to pick’n’mix?


‘You pays your money and you takes your choice!’

Theology –  “the attempt to answer questions that people ask about their faith.” (Albert Nolan)

– “Faith seeking understanding.” (Anselm)
–  It serves  “to nourish and strengthen faith.”  (St Augustine)

“The purpose of theology is to:
-nourish and strengthen our faith
-deepen our commitment to others
-clarify to what, or better to whom, we are committed
-open up new perspectives
-challenge us to live our faith more fully.”  (Albert Nolan O.P.)

“Faith remains the same at all times and in all circumstances but the theological attempt to answer questions depends on the social and historical context.” (Nolan)

(1) PATRISTIC THEOLOGY – was developed by the early fathers of the church – the sort of questions that were asked in their monasteries;


(2) SCHOLASTIC THEOLOGY – was used by medieval university scholars;

(3) CLERICAL THEOLOGY – as used by priests in their seminaries and textbooks. It was irrelevant outside that context e.g. in the parish!


(4) FIRST WORLD THEOLOGY – White, European/North American theology where the language, idioms, culture, answer problems found in that context but not in the Third World;

(5) ACADEMIC THEOLOGY – includes all of the above. It’s used by professional intellectual elites in a very narrow context. It’s not for the uneducated (can you define “hermeneutics” ?) In other words theology has been hijacked!
c.f. Jesus saying “I bless you Father for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.” (Lk 10:21)


(6) AFRICAN THEOLOGY – tries to answer questions that arise for an African with a different culture and world view;

(7) INDIAN AND JAPANESE THEOLOGIES – trying not to adapt western theology, but understand the christian faith from scratch;

(8) EUROPEAN POLITICAL THEOLOGY – less private, personal and spiritual and more relevant to politics, economics, and other social activities;


(9) THEOLOGY OF REVOLUTION – doesn’t accept the status quo but tries to transform it (into the Kingdom of God?)

(10) GOD OF THE GAPS THEOLOGY – now we understand disease, weather etc without recourse to a god hypothesis the only place left for him is in those shrinking gaps between;

(11) NEGATIVE THEOLOGY – not knowing what god is so saying only what he is not;

(12) DEATH OF GOD THEOLOGY – has destroyed the images that we have made of god with our human reason and imagination;


(13) BLACK THEOLOGY– North America and South Africa have produced theologians who are grappling with the issues of race, human dignity, oppression, poverty and suffering;

(14) FEMINIST/WOMANIST  THEOLOGY – It is rarely acknowledged  that women are living in a man’s world. They see the bible differently;

(15)  QUEER THEOLOGY – God intentionally created people of all sexual orientations. Radical love demands erasure of all  boundaries: LGBT/Straight, Male/Female, Divine/Human, Life/Death.


(16) LIBERATION THEOLOGY – originated in Latin America. What is the relevance of christianity to grinding poverty?

(17) POST-COLONIAL THEOLOGY – Half the world’s christians live in former colonies.  They have their own take on things;

(18) CANDY THEOLOGY – from US televangelists, a sweet non-challenging theology designed to comfort and reassure the listener;

(19) PROSPERITY THEOLOGY – Jesus means big bucks –  believe stuff to get stuff (and don’t forget to tip the pastor on the way out!)

(20) CONSERVATIVE / LIBERAL / RADICAL THEOLOGIES – cover most of what you hear in church today. See separate Posts on these three;

(21) PICK’N’MIX THEOLOGY aka ‘cafeteria christianity’ or ‘supermarket spirituality’ ; in this new à la carte religion you put together your own customized package of beliefs from any religions you want, keeping what is helpful to you and comfortably discarding the rest of bible teachings. Your personal picks will be unique, unpredictable and probably contradictory!

(1) Albert Nolan OP “To Nourish Our faith , theological reflections on the theology of liberation” (1989) Cafod.
(2) Barna.org
(3) Freke, T. and Gandy, P. “The laughing Jesus, religious lies and gnostic wisdom.”  O Books (2006)

Related Zingcreed Posts:
What conservative Christians believe (and I don’t)
What liberal Christians believe
Radical Theology
Radical Christian attempts to define God
Red Christian documents #16: The Kairos document (State, Church and Prophetic theologies)


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